Sunday 6 October 2013

Marla Ahlgrimm Tells How to Better Control Food Cravings

Q: Does everyone experience food cravings?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Surveys estimate that nearly 70 percent of young men and nearly 100 percent of young women had  food cravings throughout the past year.

Q: What causes food cravings?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Research shows that the memory areas of the brain, not the brain’s reward center, are responsible for associating a specific food with a reward.

Q: What causes menstrual-related food cravings?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  After ovulation, serotonin levels in the brain go down resulting in a drop in energy and mood. Endorphin levels, another brain chemical associated with pain relief and a feeling of well-being, are also diminished.

Q: Why would that result in a craving for certain foods, such as chocolate?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Serotonin and endorphins are chemicals in the brain that affect mood stability. Sugar and fatty foods help restore endorphins and lift the spirits. Chocolate is the perfect blend of both.

Q: Is it possible for a craving to be more than a pressing need to feel good?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Sometimes the body is asking for something missing from the diet. Chocolate is a source of magnesium, a key mineral in metabolism, so it’s possible the body is craving the mineral—not the specific food.

Q: What should that person do in that case?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  That person shouldn’t berate herself for eating a piece of candy now and then. The problem comes when people consume a whole bag of sweets.

Q: If a person craves chocolate, should he or she automatically reach for a chocolate bar?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Healthy foods that also contain magnesium are almonds, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, and more. An occasional craving for a piece of chocolate won't hurt, but if it is an ongoing problem I would suggest consulting a doctor.

Q: What if the craving is for potato chips, macaroni and cheese, or chocolate-chip cookies?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  All of those things have either sugar or fat or both and boost serotonin levels.

Q: What about those people who say that craving is all in the head?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Research seems to affirm that statement. Specific areas of the brain responsible for memory and sensing pleasure  are partly to blame for food cravings.

Q: Why would memory cause a food craving?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  A person often relates food to a specific event in his or her life, and the sight or smell of it sparks sentimental or nostalgic feelings. Those foods are referred to as “comfort food.”

Q: Does that mean that all food cravings are basically physiological?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Food cravings can also have to do with emotion and desire, such as a need to lower anxiety and calm stress.

Q: How does stress and anxiety factor into food cravings?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Those emotions are also related to serotonin. Carbohydrates, sugar and fat all boost serotonin levels and have a calming effect.

Q: Is there a scientific explanation for this?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Stress and anxiety chemicals are related to the primitive fight or flight response. Studies show that eating fat and sugar causes the brain to produce less of these chemicals, resulting in a calming effect.

Q: How does being aware of the rationale behind it make food cravings work for us?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Once we know the reason for our cravings, we can control them instead of letting them control us.

Q: How does a person control a craving?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Purchase portion-controlled packaging. Buy fun-size candy bars or a single slice of cake or pie instead of a whole one.

Q: Do you have other food suggestions?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Make healthier, lower-calorie choices. Substitute whole-wheat flour and Splenda when baking. Use smarter fats like canola oil or margarine high in monounsaturated fat and plant omega-3s.

Q: How does a person keep from getting so hungry?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  Eating several smaller meals throughout the day will help control cravings.

Q: Are there any other suggestions that may help?

Marla Ahlgrimm:  If we take a little time for ourselves every day, we might be less likely to feel stressed or unhappy and, therefore, less prone to craving comfort foods.


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